Some think of February as the month of love. Hallmark, florists, and Russell Stover keep us all on track to celebrate our significant others. Still, it’s also the month we honor past presidents, especially presidents Washington and Lincoln. And so I wonder: Who’s keeping us on track to honor and celebrate the freedoms that came from the leadership, commitment, and sacrifice of our presidents (past and present)? Teachers, that’s who.
You remember civics class, and Constitution day, and reading and writing about the work of our presidents, don’t you? I am not bringing this up just because it’s February. As Kansans, we might want to harken back to the lessons of our civics teachers throughout the year. Challenges to civil rights, constitutional rights, core values and moral obligations are right in front of us today. Right here in middle America, while you and I are sipping our morning coffee, there are people who are attempting to change our state’s Constitution. Every citizen might want to pay attention to what’s happening, before significant changes are made that erode our rights as citizens in Kansas. Echoing the words of Bishop John Bryant, “Somebody’s got to say something!”
What am I talking about? Some of our leaders, when faced with a court that ruled that the legislative branch violated their constitutional duties by deliberately choosing not to suitably fund public education, are proposing to remove the obligation to do so from the Constitution. “Somebody’s got to say something!”
Our leaders, faced with a district court ruling (and state Supreme Court judges in 2005) that they (legislators) have failed to uphold the Constitution, are proposing to change how judges are selected, making judges a political appointment, rather than continuing the selection process by a panel of informed citizens. “Somebody’s got to say something!”
Our leaders, faced with opposition to their ideas and platforms, are seeking to remove the rights of groups of citizens, who are public employees, to lobby and stand up for issues of importance to their jobs or families. “Somebody’s got to say something!”
President George Washington stated, “ . . . the Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.” And Abraham Lincoln remarked, “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”
Hear me: I am not advocating for the overthrow of our leaders. Legislators and government leaders have thankless jobs, and are faced with difficult decisions. What I am suggesting is that, when faced with decisions that impact the rights of citizens, that they uphold the Constitution. Martin Luther King reminded us that, “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” Let’s all remember, “It’s Up to Us.”
Cynthia Lane is superintendent of the Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools.